Asobi Seksu / Loney Dear @ Bottom Lounge

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The Brooklyn based band Asobi Seksu shared a bill with Sweden’s Loney Dear Saturday night at Bottom Lounge.  Both artists are on the Champaign, IL based label Polyvinyl and are touring in support of their 2009 releases AS’s Hush and LD’s Dear John.  The evening was very much a co-headlining affair with each band playing for roughly an hour.

Asobi Seksu (colloquial Japanese for “playful sex”) play a dreamy shoegazery version of pop, but live they brought surprising force and bombast to songs that on record can verge on precious and wispy.  Chief singer Yuki Chikudate sang beautifully in both English and Japanese, but what blew me away was the throbbing bass lines combined with strobe lighting and guitarist James Hanna’s reverb drenched guitars that made the tunes lift off.

One of several highlights from Hush was recent 10” single “Transparence,” but Asobi Seksu achieved near perfection on the bursting “Me & Mary,” which launches right from the get go with Chikudate’s vocals.

Rounding out their set were selections from 2006’s Citrus.  The dual closer of “Red Sea” and “Strings” saw Chikudate (in a surprising move) shift instruments and play drums at the end of “Red Sea.”  This material seems a more natural fit for the band playing live.

On November 10th Asobi Seksu will release Rewolf, an album of new arrangements of songs from their catalog played using mostly acoustic instruments.  It was recorded at Olympic Studios in London on an off day on their 2008 UK tour.  While on paper this sounds tantalizing, having obtained a copy, it proves to be a disappointment in execution.  I would more heartily endorse Hush as a reference point for a new fan seeking their best studio work.

Setlist:

Sing Tomorrow’s Praise
New Years
Strawberries
Meh No Mae
In The Sky
Thursday
Layers
Me & Mary
Familiar Light
Transparence
Red Sea
Strings

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Loney Dear was for a number of years the bedroom-based recording labor of love of Emil Svanängen.  However on the past two albums this has expanded to the 5 piece live act that performed Saturday night.  Loney Dear opened with the brilliant “I Was Only Going Out,” which illustrates the group’s best attribute which is to build a sound collage by packing layers of soundscapes and vocals on top of one another.  Dear John from 2009 displays Svanängen branching out more than ever into overdubbing and electronic sounds matched with his acoustic folk and high register vocals.

Svanängen explained from the stage that he had to fly to Chicago from Minneapolis as the band’s van broke down en route.  This information may have explained what seemed to be a bit of a sloppy stage set up and an apparent lack of a soundcheck.  While this candor is appreciated sometimes such information is better left to myth.

Throughout the set Svanängen encouraged fans to huddle closer and towards the end of the evening conjured some inspired vocals and guitar work minus the aid of microphone or amplifier.  (Reminding me of Jeff Tweedy who often performs “Acuff Rose” in this fashion)

This was only my second show at Bottom Lounge, but also the second time that the posted show time was 8pm when in reality the first act started at 9, meaning that on this night Loney Dear didn’t play until 11:30.  If this is a divisive move by the venue to pad beverage sales then that is totally lame.  Fortunately they have a 15 foot video screen upstairs for sports fans.  It is no doubt an odd venue that I feel might serve a college town better than the West Loop.  I do give it high marks for its relative intimacy and having a low stage (like Schubas, for instance) making for good interplay between performer and audience.

See more pics from the show at http://www.flickr.com/photos/39771243@N08/sets/72157622573602994/

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